ICAC operation ‘Gale’: 20 arrested in connection with alleged bribery for falsifying car testing centre’s annual examination results


In an operation codenamed “Gale” mounted early last week, the ICAC arrested 20 people, including staff members of a designated car testing centre (DCTC) in the New Territories, for their suspected involvement in a bribery scam that facilitated a number of private cars to pass the annual vehicle examination by circumventing the examination procedures of the Transport Department (TD).

Eighteen of the arrestees, all male, aged between 27 and 69, are respectively 10 staff members of a DCTC, four proprietors of three garages, and four middlemen. The 10 DCTC staff members are four responsible persons (RPs) and six approved car testers (ACTs); one of the RPs is also the manager of the DCTC.

In the operation, search warrants were executed by ICAC officers to conduct searches at various premises, including the DCTC, as well as offices and places of business of the garages. A total of 10 private cars were seized and over 10 individuals, including the car owners concerned, were also interviewed by ICAC officers.

According to the Road Traffic Ordinance, all private cars manufactured for six years or more are required to undergo an annual examination at a DCTC appointed by the TD. ACTs are responsible for conducting the annual vehicle examination under the supervision of RPs, and issuing a certificate of roadworthiness for each vehicle which has passed the examination for the car owner to renew its licence.

The ICAC investigation arose from corruption complaints in relation to annual vehicle examination. The complaints concern allegations in relation to staff members of the DCTC accepting bribes from the proprietors of the three garages or the middlemen to fraudulently facilitate private cars not meeting the relevant standards to pass the annual vehicle examination, contravening section 9 of the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance and other relevant legislation.

The ICAC investigation identified that the private cars concerned were referred by the three garages to the DCTC for conducting the annual vehicle examination. In particular, it was revealed that the scam involved falsified results of the smoke emission test. Other test results relating to safety issues were believed to be unaffected.

The arrested DCTC staff members are suspected of accepting bribes for substituting the results of private cars passing the smoke emission test as purported results for cars which failed the test.

The 10 private cars seized in the operation were sent to the TD for re-examination. All 10 private cars failed the annual vehicle examination and it was revealed that the exhaust system of some of the cars had been altered.

Investigation so far revealed that the car owners concerned engaged the three garages for the annual vehicle examination. The ICAC is looking into their knowledge of the scam.

Also arrested in the operation were two contract staff of the TD. Although the duo did not discharge any car-testing duties, they were suspected of accepting advantages from one of the responsible persons of the DCTC for tipping him off about possible ICAC investigation of the DCTC.

All arrestees have been released on ICAC bail. As the ICAC corruption inquiries are ongoing, further law enforcement actions will not be ruled out. No further comment on the case will be made by the Commission at this stage.

The TD has rendered full assistance to the ICAC during its investigation. The ICAC has offered corruption prevention advice on vehicle inspection arrangements at DCTCs. Following the findings of this case, the ICAC and the TD will review the relevant procedures and strengthen supervision of DCTCs so as to stamp out malpractices.

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